by Hilary Niles vtdigger.org A new method of harvesting sap from young trees could revolutionize maple syrup production in Vermont ‘ and potentially around the world.Researchers at the University of Vermont’s Proctor Maple Research Center have discovered that sugar maple saplings produce the same sweet liquid that mature trees yield.Abby van den Berg and Tim Perkins at Proctor Maple Research Center with new technology they are applying to maple saplings for maple syrup. Photo by Sally McCay/UVMSugar maple saplings can out-produce mature trees by an order of magnitude. A plantation-style crop of 6,000 saplings can produce 400 gallons of syrup per acre, while a mature sugarbush of 80 mature maple trees produces 40 gallons per acre, researchers say.Saplings are ready to harvest in seven years, while mature trees take four decades to tap.The implications could be significant for one of Vermont’s signature products ‘ as a hedge against climate change, as a relatively cheap and fast way to grow a maple operation and as an opportunity for competitors to get a foothold in the market.A maple sapling cut off and fitted with a system to collect sap. Photo by Sally McCay/UVMTim Perkins, Proctor Center director and one of the lead researchers who made the discovery, said the plantation method is not a replacement for traditional maple sugaring. He described the innovation as a complement to sugarbush production ‘ in much the same way tube and vacuum technology recently transformed the industry.Matt Gordon, the executive director of the Vermont Maple Sugar Makers Association, is reserving judgment about what the technology will mean for producers in the state.‘Everything about it is so new and so cutting edge, it just sounds like really interesting experiments,’ Gordon said. ‘No one’s going to give up their old sugarbush with mature trees.’Innovation’s threats, opportunitiesPerkins said the sapling method might be most valuable to maple producers who have limited space or want to expand their operations quickly.Sapling plantations could help sugarmakers recover more quickly from a devastating storm or pest infestation, for example.Plantations also would give producers more control over growing conditions ‘ potentially crucial in the face of anticipated climate change.As the Proctor Center continues its research, Gordon said he will be most interested in what the developments mean for maple operations that struggle with the high cost of sugar maple forestland.The plantation method allows for dense planting of saplings in an open field, and the critical feature that makes sugarbush land so valuable ‘ a mature maple forest ‘ becomes moot.But that’s not to say maple saplings could be raised plantation-style anywhere, Perkins cautioned. The freeze-thaw cycle that turns starch into sugar is still needed to produce sweetness, he said. ‘But smaller trees freeze and thaw much faster,’ he said.Still, Perkins said, ‘You’re not going to see maple syrup being made in Florida. It’s going to be northern climates.’ Nor does the thought of growing maple saplings in greenhouses sound to him like a lucrative prospect.And due to the Northeast’s longstanding specialty in maple sugaring ‘ from equipment manufacturing and repair to expertise in plant biology ‘ Perkins thinks the maple brand will not escape the region any time soon.‘At least in the short-term, it’s unlikely that someone else will jump in and make maple syrup more economically than we can in New England,’ he said.Meanwhile, the University of Vermont is already doing what it can to maintain the state’s grip on the maple technology and brand. The school applied for a patent in 2012 for the vacuum process and all devices associated with plantation-style sapling production. That includes the contraptions Perkins and his colleague, Abby van den Berg, improvised to fit standard tubing to sapling tops.The application was published in September 2013, at which time the researchers could finally go public with what they had been studying since spring 2010.How it works, how it tastesIn the course of studying maple sap production, Perkins said, he and van den Berg realized that the sap they were collecting was being produced from tree roots ‘ not from the tops of the trees, as had traditionally been assumed.This was not an entirely accidental discovery. The scientists began studying sap production under different types of ‘flow conditions’ ‘ for example, in gravity versus vacuum collection systems. Partway through the season, Perkins said, it occurred to them to test the idea that sap was being produced from water being pulled up through the roots.What they found reinforced the theory.‘The main thing was that, after a long thaw, sap flow didn’t stop.’ Perkins said. The top of the sapling had already been cut off, so they knew the sap being pulled out by a vacuum was coming from below.‘But even with that, if you were only drawing from the tree itself, the moisture content would drop off,’ Perkins said. ‘The only place it could be coming from was from water in the soil.’This could mean that plantation-style production would be water-intensive, he said. But Perkins dismissed that as a problem in the Northeast climate, given spring snowmelt. If maple plantations were to require irrigation, he suggested, producers are already accustomed to working with tubing, so the new application would not be a stretch.Trees survive the plantation method, but must be managed carefully to continue production without interruption from season to season. After sap production, the vacuum apparatus is removed from the top of the stem, at which point the tree regrows a compact, bushy crown, Perkins said. The following year, about 6 to 12 inches must be cut off again to freshen the top ‘ attrition that growth can’t make up for. Eventually the tree would be trimmed to the ground.Instead of resting the sapling for a few seasons to regenerate, Perkins said alternate methods of coppicing or pollarding keep the sap active.The coppice method involves cutting the sapling close to the ground early, and letting it form multiple stems. A producer could alternate the harvest from one stem to another year after year, allowing sufficient growth on each stem before it’s decrowned again.Pollarding allows the tree to grow 4 to 5 feet off the ground. This has distinct advantages in the Northeast, Perkins pointed out, because at that height deer cannot nibble the tops of the trees.Perkins said in all cases, the chemistry of the sap is identical to that produced by mature maples. The taste is the same, too, he said ‘ though he confessed he hadn’t yet tried it on pancakes.‘Our value in a sense is the science and not the syrup,’ Perkins said.While maple syrup from wherever it originates might be chemically identical, it also differs slightly in taste, as another UVM research is keen to point out.In the Nutrition and Food Science department, Dr. Amy Trubek is extending a theory of a ‘taste of place’ from wine to maple syrup. Trubek is refining a matrix of flavors ‘ toasted, milky and fruity to name a few ‘ that can be traced to environmental conditions such as soil conditions or the bedrock over which maple trees grow.Gordon said he would not expect the syrup made from saplings to taste like anything other than maple.‘It’s the same product,’ Gordon said. ‘It’s still just the sap from the maple tree that was boiled down and evaporated to make maple syrup.’ Only the collection method is changing, and the industry has already weathered a lot of change, he and Perkins are quick to underscore ‘ despite its traditional brand image.‘It’s definitely something very different,’ Gordon said. ‘But tubing looks different than buckets. Most people don’t use horses to collect their sap anymore. Not everyone wears plaid in the forest.’Before he’s ready to get either excited or worried about what the sapling ‘plantation’ method could mean for Vermont producers, Gordon is more focused on products that lay false claim to maple’s cachet. He said the more popular maple syrup gets, the more shelves are stuffed with food items that claim maple flavoring without a bit of syrup in their ingredients.Gordon said his organization wants to change consumer preferences and hopefully food manufacturing protocols to demand real maple syrup if a maple leaf and bottle will appear on a label.
Forbes:If romantic comedies are any indication, women in new relationships are constantly fretting about those three little words: “I love you.” However, according to a new study, men are more likely to let the declaration slip first.In a study that will appear in the June edition of the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, based on 205 interviews of heterosexual men and women, MIT psychologist Josh Ackerman found that 64% of people believe women are the quickest to say “I love you.” In reality, men were more likely to say it first and consider it earlier–a full six weeks before women think it’s time to fess up.Read the whole story: Forbes More of our Members in the Media >
Wired: It’s election season in the U.S., and the campaigning between the Democrats and Republicans is fiercer than ever. Now, here at GeekDad, we prefer to steer clear of partisan politics, so this posting is not going to tap-dance into that minefield; instead, we’re going to take a look at the more interesting subject of the psychology of conservative and liberal viewpoints. And regardless of which way you lean politically, I’m pretty sure that once we’re finished, you’ll concede that both the left and the right have perfectly reasonable world views, and that the human mind is an intriguingly subtle organ.Both conservatives and liberals all agree on the first two points; but the real trouble comes on the final three. As Haidt said in regard to those points, “We can say that liberals have a kind of a two-channel, or two-foundation morality. Conservatives have more of a five-foundation, or five-channel morality.”Read the whole story: Wired More of our Members in the Media >
The Atlantic:It’s been the refrain of behavioral economists and, in my case at least, my wise husband for years: Spend your money on experiences, not things. A vacation or a meal with friends will enrich your life; new shoes will quickly lose their charm.That’s true, but it’s not the whole story, argue psychologists Darwin A. Guevarra and Ryan T. Howell in a new paper in the Journal of Consumer Psychology. Not all goods, they say, should be lumped together.Read the whole story: The Atlantic More of our Members in the Media >
Share Share on Twitter “Previous studies have found that a person’s lutein status is linked to cognitive performance across the lifespan,” Zamroziewicz said. “Research also shows that lutein accumulates in the gray matter of brain regions known to underlie the preservation of cognitive function in healthy brain aging.”The study enrolled 122 healthy participants aged 65 to 75 who solved problems and answered questions on a standard test of crystallized intelligence. Researchers also collected blood samples to determine blood serum levels of lutein and imaged participants’ brains using MRI to measure the volume of different brain structures.The team focused on parts of the temporal cortex, a brain region that other studies suggest plays a role in the preservation of crystallized intelligence.The researchers found that participants with higher blood serum levels of lutein tended to do better on tests of crystallized intelligence. Serum lutein levels reflect only recent dietary intakes, Zamroziewicz said, but are associated with brain concentrations of lutein in older adults, which reflect long-term dietary intake.Those with higher serum lutein levels also tended to have thicker gray matter in the parahippocampal cortex, a brain region that, like crystallized intelligence, is preserved in healthy aging, the researchers report.“Our analyses revealed that gray-matter volume of the parahippocampal cortex on the right side of the brain accounts for the relationship between lutein and crystallized intelligence,” Barbey said. “This offers the first clue as to which brain regions specifically play a role in the preservation of crystallized intelligence, and how factors such as diet may contribute to that relationship.”“Our findings do not demonstrate causality,” Zamroziewicz said. “We did find that lutein is linked to crystallized intelligence through the parahippocampal cortex.”“We can only hypothesize at this point how lutein in the diet affects brain structure,” Barbey said. “It may be that it plays an anti-inflammatory role or aids in cell-to-cell signaling. But our finding adds to the evidence suggesting that particular nutrients slow age-related declines in cognition by influencing specific features of brain aging.” Pinterest Email Share on Facebook A study of older adults links consumption of a pigment found in leafy greens to the preservation of “crystallized intelligence,” the ability to use the skills and knowledge one has acquired over a lifetime.The study is reported in the journal Frontiers in Aging Neuroscience.Lutein (LOO-teen) is one of several plant pigments that humans acquire through the diet, primarily by eating leafy green vegetables, cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli, or egg yolks, said University of Illinois graduate student Marta Zamroziewicz, who led the study with Illinois psychology professor Aron Barbey. Lutein accumulates in the brain, embedding in cell membranes, where it likely plays “a neuroprotective role,” she said. LinkedIn
Dec 9, 2011 (CIDRAP News) – The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) today confirmed two more infections with novel flu viruses, in children in Minnesota and West Virginia, only one of which involves the novel H3N2 strain found this year in four other states.Though both of the viruses have been detected in US pig populations, investigations so far haven’t revealed any connections between the two kids or their close contacts to pigs, which could signal limited human-to-human transmission, the CDC said in a statement today. Both of the children have recovered, the agency said.The infection in the West Virginia child involved a swine-origin H3N2 reassortant strain that includes the M gene from the 2009 H1N1 pandemic virus, raising the number of such cases detected in the United States so far to 11. At the end of November, Iowa reported that the virus infected three children who had contact with each other but no known swine exposure, making theirs the first known cases to involve likely human-to-human spread.The CDC said the virus is distantly related to human H3N2 viruses that circulated in the 1990s, which suggests that adults may have some protection against it. These factors might explain why 10 of the 11 cases so far have been reported in children.Toby Wagoner, spokesperson for the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources, told CIDRAP News that state health officials have increased their surveillance for flu-like illnesses and are reminding the public about the importance of basic flu prevention methods, such as covering coughs and sneezes, observing proper hand hygiene, and staying home when sick.Minnesota’s novel flu case involves an H1N2 virus that circulates in swine but doesn’t usually infect humans, the CDC said, adding that it is only the second novel H1N2 case reported since 2007, when novel flu infections became nationally notifiable. The first case was identified in Michigan in 2007.The agency said some of the virus’s characteristics are similar to a seasonal human H1N1 virus (A/New Caledonia/20/99-like) that circulated as recently as 2007, and that people who were exposed to the latter may therefore have some protection against the novel Minnesota strain.Since 2005, 33 human infections with swine-origin flu viruses have been reported in the United States, the CDC said. Among those cases, 12 were triple-reassortant H1N1, 19 were triple-reassortant H3N2, and two involved triple-reassortant H1N2. All of the patients, who included 25 children, recovered from their illnesses.In 24 cases, people had direct or indirect exposure to pigs before they got sick. Investigations of other cases have suggested likely transmission from close contacts, but none have led to sustained human-to-human transmission, according to CDC background information on human infections with swine-origin flu viruses.Though human infections with novel viruses typically found in swine are rare, the CDC said detections have become more frequent, for which there are three possible reasons: Improvements in lab testing for flu viruses since the 2009 H1N1 pandemic may be causing identification of viruses that wouldn’t have been detected before, flu surveillance has increased as the nation enters its winter flu season, or the findings could signal a true increase in the number of cases from infected swine or limited human-to-human exposure.The CDC continues to recommend the flu vaccine to prevent seasonal flu but said it isn’t likely to protect against viruses that circulate in pigs. It said tests on the two novel viruses show that both are susceptible to the antiviral medications oseltamivir (Tamiflu) and zanamivir (Relenza). The agency reiterated that flu isn’t transmissible through eating properly handled and prepared pork products.It advised people who seek medical attention for flu symptoms after direct or close contact with pigs to mention the exposure to healthcare providers.In other flu developments, the CDC said today that seasonal flu activity in the US remained at low levels last week. The percentage of respiratory samples that tested positive for flu dipped slightly to 1.7%, and the percentage of doctor’s visits for flu-like illnesses was 1.2%, below the national baseline.The number of deaths from flu and pneumonia increased slightly, but was still below the epidemic threshold. The CDC received reports of two pediatric flu deaths, but they occurred during the 2010-11 season, raising the total to 122. So far no pediatric flu deaths have been reported for the current season.Lab analysis of 36 flu viruses showed that the H3N2 and 2009 H1N1 isolates closely matched the seasonal flu vaccine components. Of 10 influenza B strains that were characterized, 6 belonged to the Victoria lineage vaccine component, while 4 belonged to the Yamagata lineage. The CDC said it is too soon in the season to determine how well the seasonal flu vaccine and circulating strains match.Only one state, Virginia, reported local flu activity. The number of states reporting sporadic flu activity rose to 30, an increase of 2 from the previous week.See also:Dec 9 CDC “Have you heard?” statementDec 9 CDC flu surveillance updateCDC background on human swine-origin flu virus infections
NMWFP News:ALBUQUERQUE — New Mexico Working Families Party (NMWFP) celebrated a major milestone Friday as it was officially approved by the Secretary of State as a minor party in New Mexico. NMWFP collected more than 6,000 signatures and submitted party rules to become a minor party. Since its launch in the state in 2016, NMWFP has been an independent, progressive organization working on local policy and electoral campaigns. Minor party status will allow them to have their own ballot line in the general election. Organizers say the NMWFP is not a “spoiler” party or a protest vote. Instead, minor party status is the first step in building a path for fusion voting in New Mexico, a system where multiple political parties can endorse the same candidate on the general election ballot. The new party also will run candidates in open seats, and plans to push for allowing minor party members to vote in major party primaries.“We want bold leaders who aren’t afraid to take on entrenched special interests,” said Eric Griego, state director of NMWFP and one of the party’s organizers. “Minor party status will allow Working Families to challenge entrenched incumbents who are out of step with core progressive values.” “Official recognition as a minor party means a working families agenda will likely be more successful in New Mexico,” said OLE Executive Director Andrea Serrano and one of the party’s officers in New Mexico. “We will continue to work closely with our progressive allies inside and outside the Democratic party to elect candidates at all levels who reflect our core values.” Before receiving minor party status, NMWFP had several major wins in the June 2 Democratic Primary Election, where they put significant resources into defeating entrenched Democratic incumbents. They included: Leo Jaramillo in Senate District 5, Siah Hemphill Correa in Senate District 28, Pam Cordova in Senate District 30, Neomi Martinez-Parra in Senate District 35 and Carrie Hamblen in Senate District 38. Despite its relatively recent arrival to the state’s progressive political scene, NWMFP has established itself as a formidable challenge to the status quo in the Democratic party. By supporting candidates who are engaging voters with a compelling working families agenda, challenging powerful Democrats, and holding elected officials at all levels accountable, NMWFP has given the progressive wing of the Democratic party a stronger and more effective voice.
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The lack of headline-grabbing policies in last week’s long-awaited housing white paper – no new funding, little relaxation of the green belt, and instead a host of small technical tweaks – led to the announcement being branded a “damp squib” and a “missed opportunity”. Even one of the more positive comments, from Family Mosaic boss Brendan Sarsfield, pleased at the thawing of recent icy policies towards housing association building programmes, was simply that “at least government is no longer going to get in the way”.Sarsfield’s view, however, cuts to the considerable significance of the policy shift signalled – albeit quietly – by the white paper. The government’s move away from the dogmatic pursuit of home ownership, a central tenet of the Cameron-Osborne years, has been steadily trailed under Theresa May, and the white paper was its confirmation. Rowing back on the ambition to build 200,000 starter homes – offered at a discount to market rate to first-time buyers – frees councils to pursue greater diversity of tenure to meet affordable homes commitments. And rhetoric around support for housing associations, while lacking in finer detail, is streets apart from the last government’s roll-out of policy after policy that hamstrung their ability to build, along with that of the nascent private rented sector.So the direction of travel, in terms of getting more homes built and addressing affordability, is the right one. This echoes similarly positive positioning from the government in another key built environment sector: infrastructure. Here, intervention has fallen short of the industry’s highest hopes (think of the lack of statutory independence for delivery watchdog the National Infrastructure Commission, and the delays over a verdict on Heathrow); but approval for Hinkley Point C and a £2.3bn fund to better link infrastructure with housing and regeneration has paved the way for delivery of some critical projects, and a steady work stream for the sector.In more certain times, this tactic from the government might be deemed enough to ensure delivery of the built environment the UK needs. But amid the market uncertainty around Brexit, it leaves far too much to chanceIn more certain times, this tactic from the government – setting the compass and then letting the market do its work, or “no longer getting in the way” – might be deemed enough to ensure delivery of the built environment the UK needs. But amid the market uncertainty around Brexit, it leaves far too much to chance. The Construction Products Association’s latest forecasts, published this week, predict paper thin growth for construction output for the next two years: 0.8% this year, and 0.7% next. Meanwhile, the UK’s biggest contractor, Balfour Beatty – where 10% of the workforce hold non-British EU passports – warned recently that if current skills shortages were exacerbated by clampdowns on free movement of EU labour, it would put at risk delivery of major infrastructure schemes like HS2.The CPA’s forecasts predict a drop-off in commercial work as investors exercise caution around the UK’s long-term economic prospects, with this counterbalanced by growth in infrastructure and housing. With such precarious growth on the horizon for the industry, and so much riding on these two sectors of national priority for the built environment, there are two clear, interlinked arguments for greater government support – both for these sectors, and for the industry as a whole.If construction, at 6.5% of GDP, grows, the economy is boosted – if not, obviously the reverse is true. Meanwhile, if the overall industry shrinks, its capacity to deliver in the two areas that the government is prioritising will be compromised. The UK will be left increasingly short of homes, and short of the infrastructure improvements that only become more vital in a more independent Britain.A leaked document last week showed some of the priority sectors the government has identified for support under Brexit arrangements; so far, construction does not appear to be among them. Our Building a Better Brexit campaign will seek to change that. For the industry to deliver to anywhere near the levels required in areas like homes and infrastructure, it will need the support of a government that can smooth the way to post-Brexit realities over skills and materials. And one that will, away from the specifics of Brexit negotiations, be prepared to step in with detailed policy support if needed to help the industry deliver what is being asked of it against a backdrop of uncertainty.Both in political set-pieces, like next month’s Budget, and in ongoing negotiations over transitional and permanent arrangements for Brexit, the government needs to be more alert to the challenges facing the sector, and have the understanding – and the agility – to help it respond.Sarah Richardson, editor